By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
THE BEST OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S OPENING WEEKEND
KENTUCKY VS. MARYLAND
THE SKINNY: The NCAA’s decision to allow Dez Wells to play in this game drastically raises the level of competition for the young and talented Wildcats. With Wells, the Terps have all the looks of an NCAA Tournament team and a squad that should present a formidable opening test for Kentucky. Wildcats coach John Calipari has been open about still figuring out his point guard situation and it wouldn’t shock me if Kentucky rotates between incumbent floor general Ryan Harrow and freshman Archie Goodwin. All that plus the fact that this game will be the first ever college basketball showdown in the Barclays Center makes this tilt a much watch.
OHIO STATE VS. MARQUETTE
THE SKINNY: New eras begin for both the Buckeyes and the Golden Eagles and they’re both filled with several questions. Is Ohio State’s talented sophomore class — Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, and Amir Williams good enough to balance out their veteran core of Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, and Lenzelle Smith? For Marquette, their coach Buzz Williams is praying for good health (his team was ravaged by injuries last season) and as many possessions he can with savvy point guard Junior Cadougan initiating his offense. Last season, the Golden Eagles were 13-2 in games where Cadougan had two turnovers or less.
GEORGETOWN VS. FLORIDA
THE SKINNY: No Scottie Wilbekin means the Gators will be down a starting point guard when they do battle with they lengthy Hoyas. We like Florida as a title contender down the road, especially if Wilbekin can develop into the type of perimeter defensive stalwart we anticipate. Georgetown will likely start four players 6-8 or taller, highlighted by their two terrific sophomores, Otto Porter and Greg Whittington.
SYRACUSE VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
THE SKINNY: This is the first time in 25 years that the Orange have opened a season against a ranked opponent. Aztecs coach Steve Fisher told me recently that he feels this may be his deepest team at San Diego State and they’ll need every piece they have to upset Syracuse. The Orange are exceptionally long and will regularly have five players on the floor between 6-4 and 6-10. Keep an eye on Aztecs reserve James Rahon, a 3-point specialist that’s due for a bounce back season after only shooting 32% last season from behind the arc.
NORTH TEXAS AT CREIGHTON
THE SKINNY:Don’t use the term mid-major when talking about these two schools. This game will feature a pair of forwards — Doug McDermott and Tony Mitchell that are both legitimately worthy of being first-round picks in next June’s NBA Draft. The real key in this game though? Blue Jays point guard Austin Chatman. The young floor general has a tall task to try and keep up with Mean Green veteran Chris Jones.
DELAWARE AT LA SALLE: Both the Blue Hens and Explorers should challenge for postseason berths in their respective conferences.
MARSHALL AT VILLANOVA: The Thundering Herd present a strong test for the young Wildcats, who will start a true freshman in Ryan Arcidiacono at point guard.
MANHATTAN AT LOUISVILLE: Jaspers coach Steve Masiello spent six years as an assistant under Rick Pitino. Now he gets to try and beat his former boss at the KFC Yum Center.
NIAGARA AT OREGON STATE: The Beavers are a PAC-12 sleeper but Purple Eagles guard Juan’ya Green is one of the country’s best kept secrets.
What’s your must-see game of the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!